Monday, September 23, 2013

DEBUNKING A FEW CANINE MYTHS

There is so much information out there on dogs it's dizzying.  And that's good!  There really can never be too much knowledge about any subject.  But is the information all true?  Like everything in life, new discoveries are constantly being made and when that happens, many times, it means certain information we thought was once true has become dated and, quite frankly, inaccurate.  So that's where we come in. This week we're going to give you a few topics that were once considered to be a fact, and some that have become just plain misconceptions.

IF MY DOG HAS A WET NOSE THAT MEANS HE/SHE IS HEALTHY:  This is one of the most popular myths out there and it's been around forever!  We grew up hearing our grandparents and parents teach us this "myth" and we then passed it on to everyone we knew who had a dog.  Here's the REAL reason dogs have wet noses, all of which have nothing to do with their health status:

1.  They lick their noses alot.  Most dogs have pretty large (yet beautiful!) noses.  When they eat, their noses get dirty.  They lick them to clean them off.  Dogs also lick their noses to keep them cool in hot temperatures.
2.  They pick up moisture from smelling wet grass, plants, etc.
3.  Wet canine noses are perfectly designed for tracking. When a dog's nose is wet scent molecules stick to it, making it much easier for a dog to track prey and do search and rescue work. That is why the breeds with the highest developed sniffers are used in tracking.

So next time your dog's nose is dry, there's no need to rush him to the vet.  It's only dry because there  is no need at that moment for it to be wet!

IF MY DOG PULLS ON THE LEASH TO GO AHEAD OF ME THAT MEANS THE DOG IS DOMINATING ME AND MUST HEEL AT MY SIDE:  This one is, quite frankly, pathetic. It's pathetic because some supposed "experts" actually still believe it.  And we've got some news for you:  if two dog walkers have information to present to show this is not true and some of those "experts" don't....  well THEY'RE CERTAINLY NOT EXPERTS.  (And neither are we.  But at least we don't pretend that we are.)  OK so down to business.  If your dog isn't trying to dominate you then why do they pull you down the street and insist on walking in front of you?   Because dogs as a species were not bred to walk next to you unless they are a companion breed and because they have four legs and are able to cover a lot of distance a lot faster than we can.  That's it in a nutshell.   Now for a little broader explanation in terms of breed specifics on this.

Herding dogs:  These breeds were bred to NOT walk beside the shepherd.  If they did, however would they herd sheep, cattle, etc?  So walking in front of you is their proper place.

Sporting Dogs:  This includes retrievers, spaniels (other than cavaliers), pointers and the Viszla.  How could these dogs assist the hunter in pointing toward the fowl, flushing out the fowl, and retrieving the fowl if they are standing next to them?

Terriers:  These tenacious little buggers are too busy finding fox and rodents to even think about heeling, and rightly so!

Hounds: These expert trackers could never lead the hunter to any prey, or do any search and rescue work, standing next to a human.

Sled Dogs:  If you have a Husky, Malamute or a Samoyed who doesn't want to pull you down the street, get them to the vet immediately!  There is no other group that is more "entitled" to pulling you ,due to the fact they were specifically bred to pull a sled and/or freight.

Please note we are not encouraging your dogs to drag you down the street. What you ideally want is a dog walking in front of you in a relaxed pace, preferably not pulling.  But keep in mind they will pull when they spot a cat or squirrel and/or pick up the scent of something great.  And they're not wrong for doing this.

DOGS HUMPING MEANS THEY'RE AGGRESSIVE OR...  WELL YOU KNOW! (begins with an h, ends in a y, with orn in between):

Dogs hump for many reasons:

Dominance:  One dog decides to claim a higher Pack-status over the other dog so he (and sometimes she) will hump to do this.

To Play:  Let's face it, if a dog wants to get another dog's attention to say "Hey I'm here lets play!", there is no more effective way than a little good old humping to get the point across!

Control:  You will sometimes see a canine pack leader do this to a lower-status pack member acting erratically. Humping the lower-status dog literally stops them in their tracks and helps to calm them down.

Procreate:  Now for the obvious.  An unneutered  male who finds a female "in season" may, of course, want to start a family with her because that's what they're supposed to do.  

ANY TIME A DOG SHOWS THEIR TEETH THEY ARE BEING AGGRESSIVE:  This is true in many cases.  Dogs will "flash/bear" their teeth to show they are serious about something and when that flashing is accompanied by a low growl, erect tail, pricked ears, and forward body posture you should stay away from this dog.  But there is another reason for showing their teeth and this is called a "submissive grin".  Sadly, before behaviorists and vets knew the difference between the two reasons for showing teeth, many dogs were euthanized for this grin.  It's so very easy to tell when it is a submissive grin:  the ears are back in submission, the body posture is focused more on the hind legs than the front and the back half of their body is wagging in excitement.  So body language is key here in telling the difference.  We once had a dog named Savannah in our pack.  Savannah was a certified therapy dog with not even an ounce of aggression in her angelic being.  Every time we would go to pick up Savannah for daycare she always greeted us with that wonderful submissive grin and wagging body.  It really is such a dear term of endearment!

A WAGGING TAIL ALWAYS MEANS THE DOG IF FRIENDLY:  Okay everyone, this one is extremely important as it may mean the difference of your dog having a friendly encounter or ending up in the vets office!  Many of you who have taken your dog further than your yard (vet office, leash walk,, off lead dog park), have had at least one encounter that went like this;  A dog comes up to your dog wagging their tail. You assumed the dog was friendly (because of their wagging tail). Suddenly the dog lunges aggressively at your dog. What is going on here?  Like the showing of teeth illustrated above, there are two main reasons dogs wag their tail and again, body language is key.

1.  The obvious first reason is that the dog is friendly. The tail will wag back and forth and might even wag in circles accompanied by a part of the body wagging.  The mouth is relaxed and the ears are not forward.  This is a happy, excited dog.  The worse this one might do is jump on you or your dog with excitement.
2.  The other wagging is called "flagging" and this is indeed a red flag.  The ears of the dog will be forward.  The body will be stiff, except the tail.  Expert behaviorist Patricia McConnell (whose readings we cannot recommend highly enough), calls this a "phony grin".  It's used to lure a dog closer for an aggressive encounter.  It's also used to spread the pheromones emitted from their anus,  letting the other dog know this he or she is "big man on campus, king of the jungle" and just an overall bad ass and/or bully.  Far too many dogs have been injured by this myth.  We saw this repeatedly back in our dog park days.  Luckily, we knew the difference and were able to avoid our dogs becoming a victim.  But so many others said "the dog's tail was wagging.  He/she looked friendly!" as they were in tears, carrying their dog to the car for a fast trip to the vet.

IF A DOG SMELLS A PERSONS CROTCH/BEHIND THEY'RE A PERVERT!!:  It's Thanksgiving.  In walk Uncle Fred and Aunt Mildred. Spot immediately runs up and shoves his nose in their crotch, or does a  close encounter with their behind.  Humiliation and embarrassment ensues.  You scold Spot and quickly fix Fred and Mildred the strongest drink possible after locking Spot in the bedroom. Why does Spot plot such embarrassing moments for you?  What have you possibly done to piss him off so?!  Remember most dogs strongest sense organ is the nose.  Sniffing the pheromones of  dogs and humans is the quickest way to find out who they are,  and what their intentions may be.  That's why dogs sniff each others behinds (males sniff behinds more and females sniff mouths more).   Yes it will always be embarrassing, but at least now you can put everyone's mind (including your own!) at ease knowing that Spot is not a perv!  And if Spot is a very friendly dog, gives a human a sniff and reacts negatively.  Guess what?  You probably don't want to be hangin with that individual.

So that wraps things up for this week.  We hope you have enjoyed it and found it informative and useful.  We always love to hear your comments which can of course be your own experiences regarding any topic we cover.  See you in two weeks!











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